This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Situated on the banks of the Colorado, and rising gradually from the narrow level strip of land on the river, climbing up the hills and nestled in the valleys between, the city of Austin presents a picturesque appearance, especially from a hill on the eastern part of the city called Robinson's hill. At this point as well as on any other, only part of the city can be seen. The view from this point is closed towards the west and northwest by hills and mountains rising about four miles distant, several hundred feet above the Colorado. The mountains and hills and surrounding country are of limestone formation, and where the surface is not too rugged the soil is rich and black; but on the spurs jutting out from the upland towards the Colorado we find gravel and sand overlying the limestone formation, a peculiar feature, which was probably produced by a flood carrying hither the sand and gravel of the Llano and other tributaries of the Colorado, where granite and sandstone formation prevail. The climate is a mild one, as may be expected under latitude 30° north, but nevertheless it must not be expected that we have a perpetual Summer; on the contrary we have sometimes severe frost; snow of course we seldom have and never long on the ground, but instead of it we have cold and dry north winds, so-called northers, blowing from the middle of December during January up to March, and sometimes as late as April, and in such cases much damage is done to vegetation and to gardening especially.
Alternating with this we have mild south-west and south winds, and occasionally a warm southeast wind from the Gulf of Mexico which brings us mist and drizzling rain, and makes breathing difficult, as if it were blowing over a steaming cauldron. During a norther, the thermometer ranges between 20° and 30° Fahrenheit, but sometimes it sinks much lower, and has been observed down at 11° which makes 21° below the freezing point.
Another feature in the climate of central and western Texas, is its dryness, when compared with the eastern part, which is favorable to health, but not so to gardening. This dryness is, in my opinion, produced by the configuration of the coast of Texas and Mexico, and the winds that prevail here during Summer, namely, south winds.
By reference to a map of Texas we find that from Corpus Christi, on the Gulf of Mexico, the coast runs in a southern direction towards Tampico; at about that point it turns southeast, and as Austin is nearly under the same meridan with Corpus Christi, it is apparent that west of this line the Summer winds come over the dry, sandy plains of southern Texas and northern Mexico void of moisture; while east of this line the same south winds come moisture laden from the Gulf. Evidently the confinement of the growth of Pines east of this line was caused by it, for the westernmost Finery of Texas we find in Bastrop county, about thirty miles southeast of Austin.
Such an uneven surface as the city of Austin presents, is obviously not favorable in all its parts to gardening; but some of its citizens have, by terracing their lots and hauling in of good soil, made beautiful homes of places that were intended by nature as stone quarries rather than as gardens. But the gardens need irrigation, such as the city of San Antonio has, where a stream of water can be led into nearly every garden. We have water works, but the citizens who take the water are only permitted, if they pay for it extra, to sprinkle their gardens in the morning and evening, which, in my opinion, is doubtful whether it benefits the plants so much as it costs.
With conditions as stated above, no man must expect to find groves of Oranges; neither can the now so popular Eucalyptus globulus be grown out doors during winter. And in order to give the readers of the Gardener's Monthly a correct view of what may and what cannot be done in regard to ornamental gardening, I will try to give an unbiased and unprejudiced account of the leading features, not, however, pretending to exhaust the subject.